The Detroit Red Wings have come crashing back to earth after starting the 2022-23 NHL season surprisingly well under new head coach Derek Lalonde. This can be traced back to the number of injuries the team has had. Injuries are part of any athletic endeavor. The Red Wings roster is getting back to full health as the trade deadline approaches on March 3rd. The Red Wings also have the eighth most difficult schedule remaining, according to Tankathon. So, what moves could general manager Steve Yzerman make in order to improve the roster?
Detroit has roughly a three percent chance to make the Stanley Cup playoffs. This means that the team will most likely not be good enough to make the playoffs, but also not bad enough to draft center Connor Bedard, the Western Hockey League prospect out of North Vancouver, British Columbia. This can be considered somewhat of a cautionary tale as the Red Wings cannot keep being bad enough to not make the playoffs but also too good to draft high-end prospects.
During his introductory press conference, Lalonde said that success would come as the result of a process. This is the first year that Lalonde has coached at the NHL level. He was previously an assistant coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning and had several head coaching jobs at the minor league hockey level. The Lightning roster that Lalonde coached along with Jon Cooper had much more talent than the current-day Red Wings. The Tampa Bay blueprint is all over the 2022-23 Red Wings thanks to Lalonde.
Tyler Bertuzzi will rejoin the team after suffering his second wrist injury of the season. Bertuzzi will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2022-23. It would not have been surprising to see Yzerman trade the 27-year-old at the trade deadline in order to acquire the most assets, due to the number of contentious contract negotiations the two sides have had. This is in question because of the question of whether Bertuzzi’s health moving forward. Aside from the two wrist injuries, Bertuzzi has also dealt with a back injury that resulted in surgery that cut his 2021-22 season short.
Bertuzzi is not the only unrestricted free agent currently on the Red Wings roster. Oskar Sundqvist is a center that has filled his role well as a bottom-six center on the team. This is a role that any prospective playoff team could use. Sundqvist has scored six goals and added 10 assists in 31 games played for the Red Wings. When recently asked about his offensive output thus far, Sundqvist said “I’ve tried to put myself in good offensive situations by playing good defense. I think, for me, I’ve never really cheated defensively.”
Dylan Larkin is the number one free agent whose contract situation needs to be resolved. Yzerman has a track record of letting Steven Stamkos walking to free agency before coming back to the Lightning. In a recent TNT interview, Larkin said he hopes to be back with the Red Wings. The bottom line is that Larkin has yet to sign a contract with the team. As the end of the 2022-23 NHL season draws closer to an end, the lack of an agreement between the two sides becomes more and more concerning.
If Yzerman and Larkin cannot come together on a contract, as devastating to the team’s immediate standing, the number of assets that would come back would be tantalizing. Both sides of this negotiation are doing what they should do to maximize their return on this trade. At 26 years old this is the last best opportunity for Larkin to make the most amount of money during his NHL career. Recent reports have said that Larkin is showing interest from teams around the league. This is not surprising for a player who has been an all-star multiple times.
Main image credits: Getty Images